Archive for December, 2011

This year we’ve done some work on forests, some on fish, some on mammals, some on landscapes, some on alien species, some on smart cities, some on historic heritage, some on ecosystem services, some chemicals, some water, some air (not hot) and some more.

Others have been even busier: IUCN has a good list of news from the world, over the years – click here.

In particular, this one about how to communicate environmental / scientific message rings a bell with me as I often go on about communication (but probably can improve my own skills massively).

Well, to end this year, I could say ‘may 2012 bring everything you wish for’…but it won’t…what will happen is that some of your wishes will come true, some you will wish you never wished and then some wonderful things will happen that you could not have wished for, and some bad things will also inevitably happen for which I wish you strength to cope…but above all I wish you hope…..


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During his Autumn Statement the Chancellor made explicitly clear where the environment sits in his list of priorities. There are just more important things to worry about right now: jobs, growth and deficits.  The tenor of his speech was confrontational and made no concession to the green growth and sustainability as championed by David Cameron when this Government came to power with the aim of being the greenest government ever.

The Chancellor’s message was clear: environmental regulation hinders UK Plc and now is not the time for worthy but costly causes. Of particular concern to those with a green hue was the sentence “We will make sure that gold plating of EU rules on things like habitats aren’t placing ridiculous costs on British businesses.”  This was a shot across the bow to environmental groups. They responded in kind. In a letter to the Observer RSPB, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Greenpeace, Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth criticised the short-term mind-set of the Chancellor. Another letter signed by prominent green campaigners said this government was on course to be “the most environmentally destructive government to hold power in this country since the modern day environmental movement was born”.  No love lost here.

One day before the Autumn statement a report was released by the Aldersgate Group.   Pricing the Priceless – The business case for action on biodiversity presented the arguments that protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES) is critical for future well being and economic development.  The report had five main findings, each undermining the assertions made by the Chancellor:

  1. Future economic prosperity depends on BES
  2. BES must be brought into the decision making process
  3. Certain thresholds are irreversible
  4. Environmental regulation is an opportunity not a threat
  5. Loss of BES is a business risk.

The findings and recommendations of this report are not new. This document adds to the growing library that emphasises the importance of ecosystems and biodiversity to economies and business, see TEEB, the Natural Environment White Paper, The National Ecosystem Assessment for instance.

Moreover, a week before the Chancellor’s statement, the Ecosystems Markets Task Force launched. A business led government supported independent group looking at how to improve both the environment and the bottom line. This work further contradicts the sentiments and ideas expressed by the Chancellor.

Why are these reports, initiatives and their findings not making their way into the Treasury? Is the Chancellor on the wrong side of economic thought and momentum? Or are these reports only making headway within the circles that want to hear them? Why is the government supporting and recognising the importance of ecosystems on one hand and ignoring them on the other?

I expect answers to such questions require delving deep into the institutional makeup and spheres of influence within British politics.

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